Written by Endsley Eggert
Your study abroad semester will be, hands down, the best semester of your life. While you’re out exploring the world, you’ll want to document your adventures so your friends and family at home can be included and updated, and also to have something to look back on when you return home. Here are some fun ways you can document your time abroad.
Before I get into the fun stuff, I need to emphasize the importance of backing up your pictures and documents. Whether it be on a hard drive, USB stick, Dropbox, Google Drive, or The Cloud… make sure to backup anything important you want to keep. When I studied abroad (Florence Fall 2012) my computer crashed and I lost every single picture from September and October and there was no way to recover them. I was and still am devastated. Don’t let it happen to you.
Now that my cautionary tale is complete, let’s get creative.
Pictures are the easiest and most obvious way to capture your time abroad. Encompass the scenery, foods, culture, people and more with just a click of a button. There are several cameras out there that you can use. The good old iPhone, DSLR’s, point-and-shoots, GoPros, Selfie Sticks, Polaroids and more.
Polaroid cameras are making a comeback and Fujifilm is producing new cameras, film, and printers. Polaroid pictures are an unique way to document your time abroad and print the photo right away so you have a photo album in the works.
Uploading your photos to Facebook is a surefire way to make your friends at home jealous. It is also a good way to make sure your pictures are backed up. Your Facebook albums have a “download entire album” function so you can re-download them to your computer should anything happen.
Instagram is another great social media site to upload pictures. You can also create a customized hashtag to tag all your pictures from abroad and link them together. Then you can just click on the hashtag and see all your travel pictures in one place.
Postagram is a cool smartphone app where you can send postcards home using pictures you’ve taken. It gives a personal touch to your postcards that your loved ones will enjoy!
Short snippets, full stories, and pictures; a blog is another great way to keep family and friends up-to-date on your abroad adventures. Blogging takes time and patience. I always set out with the intention to blog my newest adventure but never end up taking the time to do so. It is on my to-do list to revamp my old one and use for all my upcoming adventures.
Thank You Mom and Dad
A cool way to thank your parents is to take a picture in each place you visit holding signs that spell out “Thank You Mom and Dad For Giving Me The World”. I’ve seen many students do it, including myself, and it’s a fantastic gift that guarantees a few water works.
Upon your return, you can create photo albums of all your favorite memories. Print the pictures and insert them in the plastic sleeves of a traditional album, import your pictures to iPhoto and create a hard copy book, or create photo albums online that can be published into a book on websites such as Flickr, Shutterfly, or Artifact Uprising
One thing that I wish I did more of when I was abroad was take videos. Videos can capture things that pictures cannot; action, sounds, personalities and more. When I returned from abroad, my friends and I complied the little videos we had taken and I edited them into two, 8ish minute videos that are little snapshots of our semester. It is so fun to look back and re-watch the videos over and over again.
A travel journal is something that I keep up with religiously, even if it takes me a couple months after the trip to complete. I keep notes of each day’s happenings on my iPhone and go in later to fill in the details in my journal. Keeping a travel journal allows you to write down things that photos and videos don’t capture. I write down thoughts, feelings, inside jokes, details of activities and anything else that happens. Details become fuzzy as time goes on but travel journals ensure that the memories stay intact. Whenever I re-read mine I find myself constantly thinking, “oh yeah, I completely forgot that happened”. You can also get as creative as you want with your travel journal by adding items such as postcards, pictures, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs and more.
I become a hoarder when I’m abroad and save everything that I get. Ticket stubs, transportation tickets, maps, travel guides, hostel key cards, brochures, museum entrances…you name it! It’s another way to keep track of all the details of your semester. Currently, all the things I’ve collected are sitting in folders in my room but I’ve been working on creating these cool crates to keep them in
You can also create shadow boxes to show off all your stuff
One thing that I like to do is collect the same souvenir from every place that I go. I know a ton of people that collect shot glasses or christmas ornaments from each place they travel to. Personally, I collect country flags which I have strewn across my room and postcards. My most recent venture as a Bus2alps guide is collecting patches from every place that I guide and sewing them on to my guide backpack!
Last but not least, Maps, Maps, Maps!!
It’s crazy and so much fun to see everywhere you’ve been laid out on the map. You can buy a map and push pin all the places you’ve been, scratch maps where you scratch off your destinations, or build them online on websites such as the Matador Network. http://matadornetwork.com/travel-map/
All these ways to preserve your memories can absolutely be applied to any trip you go on in the future. So keep exploring and keep documenting!